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Blytheville pushes undefeated Magnolia to end of Class 4A boys basketball state title game

The Chickasaws missed a 3-pointer late that would have tied the score.

By Jeff Halpern I Photos by Tommy Land 

HOT SPRINGS — Pushed until the bitter end, the Magnolia Panthers completed a perfect season with a Class 4A State Championship.

The Panthers (29-0) were able to celebrate after Blytheville’s Elijah Donerson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, holding on for a 59-56 victory over in front of a sell-out crowd of 6,500 at Bank OZK Arena on Saturday night. 

“We couldn’t have done it any better,” said Magnolia head coach Ben Lindsey. “This is the second time in three years we’ve done it. Nobody’s perfect, but these kids are undefeated.

“These kids have had the target on their back and they come up with plays to win. We get the ball to Derrian and he makes plays, but these guys believe they can win.”

Blytheville head coach McKenzie Pierce said, “Obviously, we’re disappointed, but I’m proud of the guys for the way we’ve played over the past two weeks. These guys are invaluable. I thought we handled things tremendously. Unfortunately, we had 13 turnovers and they had five and we didn’t shoot a free throw until the second half. We did shoot 23 threes which was about 10 more than we needed to shoot.”

Trailing 57-56 with 7.5 seconds left, Blytheville called its last timeout after Camron Jones made a 3-pointer to close it to 57-56. After Magnolia got the ball into Devonta Walker, he was fouled by Donerson with 6.4 seconds left. Walker made both free throws to set the final margin.

After Lindsey called timeout, Donerson got the ball into Tyree Thurman, who got the ball back to Donerson, who came up the left side of the court and launched a three pointer as time expired. The shot was off the mark and Magnolia was able to celebrate a state championship.

That was not the only three-pointer Blytheville down the stretch that had a chance to change the outcome. With 1:07 left and trailing 54-51, after Magnolia’s Derrian Ford lost the ball, T.J. Jackson inbounded the ball to Thurman, who got it to Shamar Marshall, who gave it back to Thurman before giving it back to Shamar Marshall on the right side. Shamar Marshall’s shot was no good and D-Ray Williams got the rebound. Williams got the ball up to Ford, who missed the dunk, but was fouled by Shamar Marshall. Ford made one of two free throws to make it 55-51.

“I’m not sure if the shot was what we wanted,” said Pierce, “but if he makes it, then maybe we’re sitting up here very happy.”

Rashaud Marshall, who led Blytheville (28-8) with 20 points and 12 rebounds, scored on a feed from Jones to cut it to 55-53. Nevi Tell was fouled with 29.8 seconds left by Rashaud Marshall and he made 1-of-2 free throws to push it to 56-53.

After Jones was called for traveling with 23.7 seconds left, Adrien Walker made 1-of-2 at the line with 15.1 seconds left to make it 57-53 before Jones made his three-pointer.

“Everyone picked each other up tonight,” said Ford, who was named Class 4A state tournament MVP with 29 points and 5 rebounds while shooting 11-of-22 from the floor and 7-of-11 from the foul line. “We all have each other’s backs and stay balanced.”

Blytheville trailed 54-47 with 1:49 left before Jackson rebounded Shamar Marshall’s miss to close it to 54-49. Rashaud Marshall closed it to 54-51.

Magnolia lead 20-15 after the first quarter before both teams went into a lull in the second half with the Panthers leading 27-23.

Leading 35-29 at the media timeout in the third quarter, Magnolia went on a 8-4 run to grab its largest lead of the game at 43-33 thanks to two baskets by Ford, Tell scoring off a turnover and Walker scoring off a turnover.

Magnolia lead 46-39 after three quarters and maintained a that lead before Blytheville came on strong down the stretch.

“I thought both teams came out strong and Blytheville countered and then it felt like each team was feeling each other out,” said Lindsey on the flow in the first half. “There were times when we got a decent lead, but then we started playing not to lose,” said Lindsey. “There were times in the game where we had not get upset at ourselves and maintain our composure.”

Pierce said, “I think most people know us as a good defensive team, but tonight it seemed like we played on adrenaline for a while.”

Pierce felt his team did not look for Rashaud Marshall in the first half, who had seven points on three-of-five shooting. “I thought we missed him in the first half,” said Pierce. “In the second half, we ran the floor better and felt like we could get him take them off the dribble.

Rashaud Marshall said he was double teamed a lot early in the game, but didn’t think it was a big deal since he is used to that type of treatment from opponents.

In addition to Marshall’s 20, Jones had 11 points and five rebounds. Jackson and seven points and 16 rebounds.

Walker had nine points for Magnolia.

Magnolia shot 22-of-48 from the floor and missed on all nine three-pointers. The Panthers outscored the Chickasaws 15-5 from the foul line. They scored 19 points off 13 Magnolia turnovers and won despite being out rebounded 45-26 with Blytheville getting an 18-8 advantage in points in second-chance points and 32-28 edge in points in the pain.

Blytheville shot 23-of-60 from the floor and made 5-of-23 three-pointers.

“We won our district and then we had a 10-day lull before our regional tournament where we lost our last two games and then we got back to playing Blytheville basketball in the state tournament,” said Pierce. “These guys are invaluable and played tremendously. Nobody has greater heart and toughness than these guys.”